In through the outfield blog

16 posts from November 2009

26 November 2009

Automatic pods for transport

The other day I came across a BBC video showing a trial of an automatic, "driverless" pod or vehicle at Heathrow airport.

BAA, who run the airport, have invested £25 million in the system, which will carry passengers from a business car park to Terminal 5 in five minutes, reaching a speed of 40 km per hour. Four passengers and their luggage can travel in each of the futuristic looking pods. It will shortly replace the current coach service.

"The driverless taxi, or personal rapid transit, drives itself around a network of guideways using a combination of systems including laser sensors and computer controls", says the accompanying article.

Martin Lowson, a professor at Bristol University, founded Advanced Transport Systems, who invented the system. They have published seven patent applications covering aspects of the system. None, sadly, are for the pod itself but the drawing for one of ther "stations" shows how three vehicles can be parked waiting for passengers to simultaneously enter all three.

Station for driverless vehicles patent
Here is the drawing from the specification describing how the "Swing and slide door" works.

Swing and slide door patent
And here is a video showing the pod in action.


21 November 2009

He stole my idea – what can I do about it? – Workshop

HaleburyI’m still catching up on my notes from some of the events I attended during a manic Global Entrepreneurship Week  (GEW) at The British Library.

Although somewhat sexist in tone, He stole my idea – what can I do about it? really caught my attention. It was presented by Denise Nurse, the co-founder of Halebury one of our partners providing legal advice.  They aim to make law more accessible to everyone, in particular start-ups and medium sized companies.

Here are my notes from the workshop:

1.      What is Intellectual Property?

  1. Ideas are not protected until you do something with it. It has to turned into something tangible.
  2. Often compared to physical property. You wouldn’t buy a house without research and professional advice. Once purchased you need to maintain and develop it in order to protect or increase its value.
  3. You need to identify the various aspects of IP in the manifestation of your idea:

-       Copyright – automatically covers any creative output, but you need to prove you did it first.

-       Trademarks – your unique identifier for you business. Can be registered for ten years with the Intellectual Property Office or the EU for a Community Mark. Start with business name, might want to include your strap line. Need to develop a strategy, but budgetary restrictions are often a factor. If you have an established brand which can not be registered as it is descriptive you can use the ‘passing off’ laws to gain some protection.

-       Patents – a long, complicated and expensive process. Covers an inventive process. Must be completely new and secret, but if successful gives you a monopoly for 20 years. Can be licensed to others.

-       Designs – often overlooked, but relatively cheap and easy to register. Covers the shape of something and how it fits with something else. Does not have to be registered, but this gives more protection.

-       Database rights – relate to the organisation of information. Protection from staff walking away with customer lists etc.

-       Confidential information – take time to ensure you have the correct confidentiality agreement. How long will it need to last? Who does it cover? Be careful using standard agreements found on the internet.

2.      How is IP Infringed?

  1. Copy, publish, distribute
  2. Sell, rent, lend
  3. Produce, manufacture
  4. Perform, broadcast
  5. Adapt

3.      What is the Damage?

  1. Music industry claims 20% lost income due to piracy.
  2. Your reputation can be damaged – e.g. counterfeit goods which are poor quality
  3. Money – loss of IP eats into your income.
  4. Dilution of rights – e.g. by allowing its use to become generic you lose the value of your rights such as a trade mark.
  5. Weakened commercial position – will have an impact on potential partners, licence agreements.

4.      Protection = Preparation and Perception

  1. Mark and / or register – e.g. use copyright symbol.
  2. Insure – a growing field, especially in the field of products and patenting. Can cover legal fees to attack or defend from attack. Can help when going for investment.
  3. Monitor use – the IPO do not act as IP police. You have to check. Not difficult these days with the internet and search engines. Some trade mark attorneys offer this service.
  4. Take swift action – very important not to hang about, but don’t act rashly, get legal advice.
  5. Follow through – do you have the resources to follow up on original letter? Nine times out ten the initial letter and demands within it will work. In some cases your trade association can provide support.
  6. Make an example of someone who is blatantly abusing your IP.
  7. Get warranties from third parties you are working with.

5.      What if someone is infringing your IP?

  1. Identify
  2. Gather evidence – such as witness statements.
  3. Get insurance – can be bought after the event.
  4. Call a lawyer – better if you already have a relationship and they know you IP situation.
  5. Contact the infringer
  6. Make a claim
  7. Notify the authorities – some acts are illegal in addition to civil. E.g. counterfeiting goods.
  8. Settlement agreement – you may be able to work out a licensing deal.

6.      Defences – anticipating

  1. Dispute ownership or title – prove the IP is yours. E.g. in the film world need to ensure all aspects are covered.
  2. License to use – check the small print of original documentation.
  3. Lack of knowledge – if your work is not widely available it is possible the infringers have not copied your work, although they will still be in breach of your IP.
  4. Rights have expired or have been exhausted – can be a geographical factor.
  5. Jurisdiction – disputes may be taking place in other locations.
  6. Acquiescence – you haven’t used your registered trade mark for too long.

7.      What will you win?

  1. Stop infringement
  2. Seize copies
  3. Account for profits – example of Brats dolls dispute with Matel – $100 damages.
  4. Damages
  5. Criminal sanctions – e.g. Pirate Bay founders

8.      Practical steps

  1. Set up processes
  2. Keep an up to date record of your IP – don’t forget to renew trademarks
  3. Document your agreements
  4. Monitor the market place – be aware of IP use and trends in your market area.
  5. Build an aggressive reputation – lessons learnt from working for Rupert Murdoch.
  6. Publicising your success – e.g. when you make an example of an infringer.
  7. Research and take advice – sometimes you will need professional advice, build this into your plan.
  8. Have a strategy – always worth going through your IP assets even at a late stage.

 Audience comment: “For most companies ethics is a small county in the south east of England.”

20 November 2009

Sustainable Supply Chains workshop

Today I attended an excellent workshop on Sustainable Supply Chains. It was presented by Stephen Taiwo, who was the sustainable policy adviser and architect of the Government Office for London and Defra’s Sustainable Food Procurement project. He now works for Supply London – an LDA and European funded initiative, provides advice and support.

Here are my notes from the workshop:

Definition of sustainability – Bruntland 1987 – “Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” 

  1. Resources consumed in line with nature’s patterns
  2. Consider long term impact
  3. Minimise risk and cost
  4. Not just about environmental impacts, includes social and economic.

Current practice

Figures from One World – currently consume the equivalent of 1.3 planets to provide the resource we use and absorb our waste. 

At current trends UN predicts 2030 will require equivalent of 2 earths.

Supply Chain

A linked set of resources and processes that begins with the sourcing of raw materials and extends through to delivery of end items to the consumer. 

Cradle to grave for products.

Development – identification & buying – manufacturing – sale & dist – consumption – end of life & disposal

Sustainability Issues

  • impact on air quality
  • water consumption & pollution
  • loss of biodiversity e.g. land clearance – mono-crops
  • impact on limited resources – is it resource intensive
  • impact on greenhouse gases – climate
  • waste production
  • health & safety
  • quality of life – wages for producers

 Examples of cotton production in India with negative impact on the soil and water supply. Intensive tomato production in southern Portugal.

 Why a sustainable Supply Chain

  • reduce costs and improve productivity
  • reduce risk – includes brand damage resulting from negative press
  • reduce absenteeism through better staff welfare
  • creates healthier environments
  • to be a market leader – public sector suppliers now ask questions related to sustainability

Drawbacks to Sustainable Supply Chains (less true than in the past)

  • no motivation other than complying with the law.
  • Consumers often go for cheapest option rather than sustainable products.
  • Short term focus of government, business and consumers – relates to 12 month business budgeting – government departments have individual targets which weren’t linked up.

Help from:

Soil association –

Sustain –

Ten Ten Campaign –

Greenworks –

How to implement a sustainable supply chain

  1. Analyse your internal process & impacts
  2. Identify your supply chain and at which point you sit. Also the suppliers of your suppliers.
  3. Make sustainability part of your organisational strategy – must have top level buy-in – need to develop KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) – develop an action plan for delivery.
  4. Implement practical measures suited to your organisation – SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely).
    1. Written policies
    2. Communication materials
    3. Evaluate suppliers.
    4. Purchasing guidelines
    5. Supplier partnerships
  5. Get all internal and external stakeholders involved
    1. Driven from the top, but must involve everyone.
    2. Supplier engagement
    3. Use relationships with customer.

Support from Supply London

-          ISO 9001 help and support which can save consultants fees.

The workshop ended first with the quote below from Mahatma Gandhi, and then a screening of the Story of Stuff (a 20-minute animation of the consumerist society, narrated by Anne Leonard).

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” Mahatma Gandhi

19 November 2009

Apple and its "Advertisement in operating system" patent application

There has been a lot of publicity about Apple's new patent application for their Advertisement in operating system invention but none, as far as I could tell, actually supplied a link to the document.

In fact two applications were published on the 22 October, one in the World system and one in the US patent system. The application says that it uses an "enforcement routine" to get users of an operating system to watch advertisements before the system starts working again.

Most of the reaction has been negative, to put it mildly. A more neutral article is in the Independent, on the 16 November. Curiously, though, it states that it was released earlier in the month (no, it was in October) and was only "filtered out online yesterday". In fact both American and World patent applications appear on the day of publication on the Espacenet database.

Apple is prolific, of course, with 139 applications published through the World system in 2009 so far. A good way to monitor a company's new publications through that database is to use WO in the publication number field and say 200911 in the publication date field. 200911 translates as November 2009. This gives 7 for Apple so far this month.

My podcast on the Guardian’s Small is Beautiful website

An interview I recorded a couple of weeks ago has now made it onto the Guardian’s Small is Beautiful website.

The aim of the recently launched section is to show why growing firms are the economy’s best hope.  And to highlight the potential for small business to lead Britain out of recession, by focussing on the issues facing small and medium sized companies.

They have used a comment I picked up from one of our earliest supporters Mandy Haberman, who believes that the Business & IP Centre is a ’safe haven’ for inventors and entrepreneurs.

18 November 2009

Karen Blakeman likes our business essentials wiki

KarenETM I’ve just read Karen Blakeman’s latest blog post which mentions our new business essentials wiki in glowing terms.

This is high praise indeed given Karen’s legendary knowledge and experience of all things related to business information. And the fact her website Business Information on the Internet has consistently come up first on Google, when searching for the term business information.

We have certainly noticed a great deal of additional content appearing since we launched it on 5 November.

Launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) at The British Library

Peter Jones and Priya Lakhani from Masala Masala discuss enterprise education by Enterprise_UK.

Peter Jones and Priya Lakhani from Masala Masala discuss enterprise education

I spent Monday morning at the launch of GEW from the comfort of The British Library conference centre.

The event was well chaired by Simon Jack from the BBC, and included some light-hearted banter between him and Peter Jones (of BBC’s Dragon’s Den fame). Peter persuaded Simon to spend a day with him in order to experience the world of the entrepreneur from the inside. He also got him to agree to give a plug for GEW one morning during the BBC Breakfast Show this week, so watch this space.

1. Our Chief Executive Lynne Brindley gave the welcome speech and included the intriguing concept that The British Library has more good ideas inside it than any other building in the world. I think it is a line I can see myself using in future.

2. The opening words were from Miles Templeman Director General at the Institute of Directors. Who felt that talent is not enough to ensure success in business – inspiration is necessary to start things off. But what unless potential talent is developed and nurtured business survival and growth is unlikely.

3. Next we watched a short video from Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

4. Then we had a fascinating panel session with Carl Schramm the Chief Executive of the Kauffman Foundation and Jim O’Neill the Head of Global Economic Research at Goldman Sachs.

Schramm acknowledged Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the key driver behind turning the original UK Enterprise Week into Global Entrepreneurship Week, which now includes 88 countries. In order to learn how to teach people to become entrepreneurs to start high growth businesses they have created the Kauffman Laboratories for Enterprise Creation –

Their research shows that entrepreneurship has been the key to recovery of the last seven economic declines. In recessions economists and governments turn back to Keynesian economics and decide that government intervention is the key to economic recovery. Schramm believes government industrial policy is antithetical to entrepreneurship. Instead what we need is government policy and pragmatic coaching skills to support creation of new entrepreneurs. He believes there is a  sea-change occurring, so we now see enterprise as the key to economic growth, and gave the economies of China and India as proof of this.

Libraries and support – Andrew Carnegie created the US public library system – the Kauffman Foundation are looking very closely at libraries as incubators for business.

5. O’Neill who’s claim to fame is having coined the term BRIC nations (Brazil, India and China), stated that entrepreneurship is the future of our and the world economy.

  • He thought it unfortunate that economists have proved why they are known at the miserable profession.
  • The consensus forecast for world economy is 3.7%, down from 5% over the last five years. This is due to continued progress in BRIC economies. The assumption that our recession is reflected elsewhere is not true.
  • Economically speaking China has created the equivalent of 2 UK’s in the last eight years.
  • Brazil is due to overtake Italy in terms of GDP (gross domestic product).
  • In China 13 million a month taking mobile phone contracts
  • Twice as many cars will be sold in China this year than the United States.
  • The expansion of BRIC economies provides opportunities for British entrepreneurs. He gave example of UK football league as an example of world business success.

6. Question time:

The British know how to invent, but not how to market themselves.

Rod Aldrich Foundation –

What is the secret to growing economies entrepreneurship success. Awareness that they have been given the chance to become wealthy. People in Britain like to be regarded as creative, but following it through to economic wealth is a cultural issue.

Over half of the US fasted growing 500 companies never wrote a business plan.

Business academies can’t spark entrepreneurial attitudes, although they can help with best practice.

7. Video from Karen Kanaan the Global Entrepreneurship Week host in Brazil. Their goal was for 1% of the population to become involved (2 million people), but actually ended up with 4.5 million people registered.

8. Panel Session:

Matt Brittin the Managing the Director of Google UK.

  • Google perspective – The Internet allows business to be global. The world has gone digital, so there is a big opportunity for entrepreneurs.
  • Example of purely gadgets digital business. Example of, used internet searching keyword targeting to bring their service to their intention.

David Wei the Chief Executive of, China’s biggest internet business.

  • Entrepreneurship cannot be educated, trained or supported by Government, it can be inspired. We need to take away comfortable safety net to create a culture of entrepreneurship.
  • Who is the new idol for entrepreneurship, why do we still see a video of Richard Branson twenty years on.
  • PowerPoint leaves your power and point on the screen. You end up with no power and no point.
  • The internet is the equivalent of the railways and highways of the last century.

Emma Harrison the founder A4E

  • Started an illegal tuck-shop at school.
  • Elected as a school governor at 15, but was still truanting from school.
  • Failed her A –levels, so went back to college to get engineering qualifications, put learner plates on a motorbike and drove to Universities to get places.
  • Joined her dad in business who left after 18 days and learnt how to survive in business.
  • Advice – find your own path, find a mentor, every day find four ways to market your business.

9. Panel discussion

  • Intro from Lord Davies, Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Small Business.
  • 4.8 million SME’s – we are a nation of entrepreneurs – appealed to the press to celebrate our success, not to concentrate on failures.
  • Peter Jones wants to introduce entrepreneurship into every school in the UK. He believes entrepreneurship can be taught.
  • Julie Meyer – entrepreneur country . net – We need to become a nation of believers (not a religious belief). A surprising lack given this country produced Winston Churchill. Business success is a like a drug, once successful they will want to help others build their success.

Panel Discussion by Enterprise_UK.

In conversation with Lord Sugar

Lord SugarTonight was definitely one of the highlights of Global Entrepreneurship Week for me. Our event in the British Library conference centre In conversation with Lord Sugar was full to bursting.

As time is short and it is now after midnight, I am going to post my notes of his gems and leave it at that.

Is now a good time to be setting up a new business?
Lord Sugar’s route into business was by learning business skills by working in a company and then applying these to his new business.

He is concerned that people wake up one day and decide to start a business, but don’t have the relevant skills or experience to make a go of it.

Opportunities currently exist in the property market if you have the money, but the banks will not be interested in lending.

His move into computers was a natural development of his business selling transistor radios, rather than a revolutionary move.

What is the best piece of business advice he has ever taken?
He used his bank as a barometer in his early days in the 1960’s to find out how fast he could and should develop. This is in contrast to more recent times when the banks give too easily and freely.

He encourages youngsters to start small with their own money and grow from there.

I have not been very successful in investing in the property market. I took all the money I earned from technology and put it into safe and boring properties. There was no rocket science in what I did.

What do you think about MBA’s in entrepreneurship
You can’t train entrepreneurs, you either have the spirit or you don’t. Business training is important but not a substitute for an entrepreneurial spirit.

Has reading business books been useful?
No, not really, I last used one for a wobbly table.

How important is a business plan?
The key point is the business idea any good. For instance if it is a service it is all about the quality of the person providing the service. No excel spreadsheet is magically going to make it work.

There is no point of any business support unless the idea is any good.

How important are work teams?
The team found Lord Sugar rather than vice versa.

Tell us about challenging periods and mistakes made.
Over 40 years in business made less mistakes than good decisions. You learn by your mistakes. He encourages young business to do a weekly health check. What has gone right this week and what has gone wrong?

How do you use sweat equity?
I’m a thick bloke from Hackney, so keep it simple. I don’t understand what you are talking about.

Advice on partnerships
When you need to add a level of expertise to your business you can either add a partner or find a suitable employee.

Can government employees give help to small business when they read them from a computer screen?
Business Links centres have the tools to take some of the burden away from business people with practical advice on employment law, tax regulations etc. They are not giving business advice, but practical help.

Common attributes for entrepreneurial spirit?
(Exasperated) I wish someone would give me an answer to this one.

Have you had a mentor?
Yes. In my business career my mentors were people I aspired to. In my family there was only my uncle. Later on my supplier of electrical equipment became my mentor. Grew beyond them on to the likes of Lord Weinstock at GEC and Rupert Murdoch. Looked, listened and tried to replicate what they were doing.

The role of PR
Differentiates the role of business PR and personal PR. Editorial on a product or service is worth more than advertising. Has a lot to do with connections with media. PR companies who don’t specialise are not as successful as the ones that don’t.

Selling and the art of closing a deal
I the person running the business is not a good sales person then why are they in business. This is another art that can’t really be taught. If you can’t do it, employ someone who is.

How do you like people to communicate in Business?
Very openly in my place, everybody shares the story and knows what is going on.

I admire people who have reached contentment with their lives and know how to enjoy themselves.

How challenging have you found this new Business Champion role?
This is not a challenge, I’m not looking for a headache. I won’t don’t it if I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to give something back to young people

Do you invest outside of the UK?
We have in the past with electronics. I don’t have any at the moment. There are problems with investing in Africa. It is a difficult market. It needs some African entrepreneurs to create the new markets and some business traffic.

What is the main cause of the 95% of business start-up failures.
Should do a weekly health check. Immediately you know where you business is going. Do not lose track of the basics. Do the simple maths every week.

How do we encourage an enterprise culture in the UK? Rachel Elnaugh – ex Dragons Den
Programmes like Dragons Den and The Apprentice have provided a great service to this country to spread the message that there are no free gifts or free lunches. That you actually have to do it yourself. There is too much of a culture that expects to be spoon fed.

If someone could invent a positive journalist then this would encourage people. Get away from this blame culture.

I don’t like the way we have changed to a knocking culture in recent years.

What could schools do to improve things for business?
We need to make plumbing cool again.

Do you set yourself goals?
Right at the beginning it was just to earn more money than in the job I had just left. If by Wednesday I had achieve £60 of net profit then I had achieved my goal.

I never had a five year plan. In the electronics business this is bullshit. You can’t see that far ahead.

Ideas have to be endorsed by a third party, it is no good getting your friends and family to say how great it is. You need a wake call.

You make people believe in your potential by your past successes.